The website glitches that have bedeviled the Obamacare rollout appear to be significant, and there's no clear timeline for fixes. But President Obama is sticking to his message: Be patient.
Suddenly, the on-time arrival of President Obama’s signature domestic-policy initiative is under question not just because of politics, but because of technology.
Despite the president’s efforts on Monday to quell concerns about technical problems facing the Obamacare website, Healthcare.gov, questions continue to surface regarding whether to delay a key deadline involved in implementing the law.
The law’s Republican critics in Congress – who have long been trying to repeal, defund, or delay the Affordable Care Act – are taking aim, of course. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida is suggesting the mandate to enroll for insurance be postponed until the website is certified as operating smoothly for six months.
But Senator Rubio's plan is unlikely to go anywhere in the Senate. The bigger question is: If the software fixes prove to be difficult, might the president feel forced into a delay, offering some sort of exemption for Americans who are unable to enroll online?
In a press briefing Monday, White House spokesman Jay Carney faced questions along that line. Mr. Carney avoided giving a definitive answer, but the administration's take so far has been: Be patient.
The rollout of the website is only three weeks old, and there’s still plenty of time before enrollment deadlines arrive, the thinking goes.
But concern is growing. “The administration should make clear whether, and under what circumstances, it might delay the tax penalty for people who are unable to buy insurance through the exchanges,” a Bloomberg View editorial said Monday.
Under the law, Americans must sign up for insurance by early in 2014 – or owe a tax penalty. In effect, the practical enrollment deadline for people buying health insurance on new exchanges is mid-February. The exchanges opened Oct. 1, and people hoping to have coverage in place on Jan. 1 need to be enrolled by Dec. 15.
So there is time. But Mr. Obama gave no clear word Monday about how long the website fix might take, and some specialists working on the project have said the process could drag into late this year or longer, according to The New York Times.